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South African Sea Turtle Citizen Science Initiative

South African Sea Turtle Citizen Science Initiative

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Ecological roles of sea turtles

Sea turtles have complex lives. They are long-lived, slow to mature, highly migratory and have different habitats at different life stages. They are truly phenomenal in their ability to navigate thousands of kilometres after at least 25 years in the ocean to return to the same beach in which they were born, with approximately only 1 in 1000 hatchlings surviving to adulthood. Their ecosystem importance is often overlooked, as many people are unaware of their ecological roles. Sea turtles actually have a keystone function in maintaining reef biodiversity through foraging, which ensures that dominant species of algae and sponges don't take over reefs, allowing other species to thrive.

 

Threats

Unfortunately, sea turtles are faced with many human-induced threats, from coastal development and plastic pollution to illegal wildlife trade. These threats, along with their complex life histories, render all species conservation dependent.

 

Current research

Five of the world's seven sea turtle species have been documented in South African waters. However, current research in South Africa focuses on two nesting species (loggerheads and leatherbacks) that nest on the north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal coastline. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists loggerheads as Near Threatened and leatherbacks as Critically Endangered in the South Western Indian Ocean, but greens and hawksbills have not been regionally assessed due to a lack of information. Despite being seen regularly by recreational divers and in strandings and fisheries bycatch, we know very little about the lives of sea turtles in the water, where they spend almost all their time!

 

South African Sea Turtle Citizen Science Initiative (CSI)

The South African Sea Turtle CSI is a new initiative that aims to turn recreational divers and fishermen into Citizen Scientists who contribute to important research by sharing footage and information about sea turtle encounters. Through Citizen Science, we hope to establish a long-term in-water monitoring program for sea turtles in our waters.

Nelson Mandela University MSc student, Natalie dos Santos, is managing the initiative which will contribute to her research project on the in-water ecology and population dynamics of sea turtles in South Africa. The study aims to describe the abundance, distribution, demographics and behaviour of sea turtles in our waters to inform and improve conservation and management efforts.

Two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in KwaZulu-Natal form study sites for the project, namely Aliwal Shoal off Durban where Natalie is based and iSimangaliso further north where Sharklife NGO, a project collaborator, conducts research surveys.

 

How you can help

If you are a diver or fisherman with a camera and a love for sea turtles, you can contribute directly to this research by sharing your footage and some basic information about sea turtle encounters.

Any donations, no matter how small, will also be appreciated and used in various ways to keep the project going. The target amount listed here (R60 000) is only part of the total project budget, but this amount will cover important costs (diving, paired-laser photogrammetry equipment and website design) for 1 year of the project that will allow research to continue until other funding becomes available.

If you have any questions or would like to see a detailed budget for the project, please don't hesitate to send an email (natsdossantos22@gmail.com).

For now, you can follow project fieldwork on Instagram and read more about turtles here.

Donations

  • Jun 13, 2021 - R 1 000.00
  • "So worth the support. Keep it up Mats." - Celeste Jacobs

  • Jun 11, 2021 - R 5 300.00
  • "Aliwal Shark photo towel hoodie money raising mission successful!" - Linda Ness

  • Jun 05, 2021 - R 500.00
  • "Great initiative nats" - Andy

  • Jun 04, 2021 - R 300.00
  • "The first donation of many hopefully" - Anonymous

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Statistics

Donations to date

R 7 100.00

Fundraising target

R 60 000.00
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Natalie dos Santos Nature Conservation Cause

Natalie dos Santos Nature Conservation Cause  Logo

Ecological roles of sea turtles

Sea turtles are long-lived, highly migratory marine reptiles that spend most of their lives underwater. They are truly phenomenal animals with a myriad of ecological roles that keep marine and coastal ecosystems healthy.

 

How you can help

If you are a diver or fisherman with a camera and a love for sea turtles, you can contribute directly to this research by sharing your footage and some basic information about sea turtle encounters.

Any donations, no matter how small, will also be appreciated and used in various ways to keep the project going. The target amount listed here (R60 000) is only part of the total project budget, but this amount will cover important costs (diving, paired-laser photogrammetry equipment and website design) that will allow research to continue until other funding becomes available.

Thank you!